Ruth’s Rankings News Flash! 2019-1: THE Asia/Pac update and other Asia rankings

(11 Mar 2019)  The calendar year 2019 rankings’ cycle has begun.  News Flashes will focus on ranking changes, if any, and new observations. News Flash 2019-1 includes updates to THE Asia/Pac rankings and QS subject rankings.

  • Who is THE’s number one university in Asia/Pac?
  • What country has the most top ten universities?
  • On what top ten list will you find Peking U and Xiamen U?

THE released its 320 Best Universities in the Asia-Pacific in a format that allows for no filtering. The methodology uses the same universities and indicators from the world rankings, with the indicators slightly re-weighted.  It gives less weight to teaching and more to industry income.  The top 100 have individual ranks. The website list includes only the ranks. Click here to see the 2019 list with scores.

News Flash 2019-1 Table1 A below lists the top 10 Asia/Pacific universities. Eight universities from four countries are in all top 10 rankings.  Hong Kong leads in 2019 with three of the top 10 universities. Tokyo and Peking rank higher in the world rankings than these regional rankings.

table 1

News Flash 2019-1. Table 1B lists the top 25 universities in Asia/Pac for 2019 compared to the 2018  and 2017 rankings and their 2019 World rankings. 27 universities make up the list for the three years. 24 of 2019 top 25 in the region are also the top 25 in the World rankings, with a little re-ordering.

News Flash 2019-1 Table 2.A below compares the percent of institutions by country to the percent in the top 25 for 2019. See Table 2.B for underlying data. Singapore and Japan represent the two extremes. For example, 32% of the universities are Japanese and only 2% are in the top 25. Singapore’s two universities, less than one percent of the list, are both in the top 10.

table 2A

THE  published a regional ranking for all of  Asia in February 2018 using the regular ranking interface. It has not been updated. The first non-Eastern or Southern Asian institution is Tel Aviv University, coming in at 25. The top nine are on both lists. Table 3 compares three THE Asian rankings with the QS Asian ranking.  QS covers only Eastern and Southern Asia. Eight universities are top 10 on all four lists. For fun, I calculated an average rank that puts NUS at the top followed by Tsinghua.

The most interesting THE Asian list I came across highlights the top 10 most beautiful campuses in East Asia. I only visited three of them and was surprised by the inclusion of City U HK, whose main entrance is through a shopping mall. My first trip to China after moving to Singapore was to Xiamen University.  It has a lovely campus and I was delighted to see it on the list.

THE Summary and Observations: Universities from China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, and Thailand also appear in the Emerging Economies Universities rankings. The same universities rise to the top, in slightly different order. The multiple lists add little to the narrative.  What strikes me, as shown in Table 2A above, is the profile for Singapore.  With a population of about 5.6 million people, it has two ranked universities and they are both in the top 10. This provides Singapore with bragging rights. The challenge is how to improve the profiles of the four 21st century autonomous government universities.  New Zealand, with a population of about 4.8 million people has only one university in the top 10 and eight ranked universities. The star is Hong Kong, with a population of 7.4 million with six universities and four in the top 25. The biggest loser is Japan with only one top ten universities.

CAVEAT:  Remember when you read the ranking organization’s news releases that they are looking for things to highlight.  With little change over time, it is a challenge. What they chose to highlight may not be what is important to you and your organization.  Finally, with so many ranking sources for Asian/Pac universities, pick one that has the best methodology to fit your organization, not the one that gives you the highest rankings. That is the one you should follow.

The next News Flash will evaluate QS’ new subject rankings and the underlying Academic and Employer surveys that are the basis for the rankings.


Ruth’s Rankings News Flash! is written by Ruth A. Pagell, emeritus faculty librarian at Emory University.  After working at Emory, she was the founding librarian of the Li Ka Shing Library at Singapore Management University and then adjunct faculty [teaching] in the Library and Information Science Program at the University of Hawaii.  She has written and spoken extensively on various aspects of librarianship, including contributing articles to ACCESS –